Sound: Artists research

Laurie Anderson

Laurie Anderson is an American experimental performance artist, composer and musician who plays violin and keyboards and also sings in a variety of experimental and art rock styles.  Initially trained as a sculptor, Anderson did her first performance-art piece in the late 1960’s.  Throughout the 70’s, she did a variety of different performance-art activities and became widely known outside the art world in 1981 when her single “O Superman” reached number 2 in the UK pop charts.  She also starred in and directed the 1988 concert film ‘ Home of the Brave’

Anderson is a pioneer in electronic music and has invented several devices that she has used in her recordings and performance-art shows, such as a tape-bow violin that uses recorded magnetic tape on the bow instead of horsehair. In 2008 she married singer-songwriter and guitarist Lou Reed and is still working and performing to this present day.

Marcus Coates

Marcus Coates born in London in 1968 is well known for his video works which record the artist making Shamanistic performances.  These events tend to take place in municipal spaces such as offices or council housing buildings, and happen in front of members of the public.  The viewer is usually left unsure of Coates’ convictions, as the work oscillates between comedy and a proposition that art can be restorative.  In 2007, Film and Video Umbrella commissioned Marcus Coates to make ‘Britain’s Bitterns c.1997’.  This was part of the touring group exhibition ‘Waterlog’, which was accompanied by a major publication.  This furthered Coates’ practice of using animals in his work and drawing on their status in folklore and mythology and also looking at the commonality between human and animal communication which has lead to his work being widely exhibited in the UK and abroad.

Diamanda Galas


Christian Marclay is a Swiss/American visual artist and composer. His work explores the connections between sound, noise, photography, video and film.  A pioneer of using gramophone records and turntables as musical instruments to create sound collages.  Drawn to the energy of punk rock, Marclay began creating songs and singing to pre-recorded backing tapes.  He has been described by critics as perhaps the unwitting inventor of turntablism.  He was the first non-rap DJ to make an art form out of the turntable, treating the instrument as a means to rip songs apart, not bridge them together.

Marclay was inspired artistically by Joseph Beuys and musically by John Cage.  Two of the most respected pieces of video and film work are ‘The Clock’, which he won a Golden Lion for. It was a 24hour compilation of time-related scenes from movies that debuted at London’s White Cube Gallery. Another is the 1995 compilation ‘Telephones’, which is a seven and a half minute video of Hollywood film clips which involve numerous well known actors and actresses in scenes were they use a telephone.

Janet Cardiff   (Forty Part Motet)   (Ghost machine 2005)

Janet Cardiff is a Canadian Installation artist, she works in collaboration with her partner George Bures Miller and first gained international noteriety for her audio walks in 1995.  Cardiff’s installations and walking pieces are often audio based. In her Forty Part Motet, she placed 40 speakers in 8 groups, each speaker playing a recording of one voice singing Thomas Tallis “Spem in Alium”, enabling the audience to walk through the space and “sample” individual voices of the polyphonic vocal music.  The work is now part of the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Canada.

In real time (1999) was the first video walk that Cardiff created taking place in thew library of the Carnegie Museum of Art, it begins with a participant donning a pair of headphones attached to a video camera, upon playback, Cardiff says to watch the screen and follow along with what is heard and seen for approximately 18 minutes. Another of Cardiff’s video walks is Ghost Machine (2005)that was done at the Hebbel Theatre in Berlin. Participants are given a camera with a pre-recorded tape and headphones. The pre-recorded video is shot from the same location in which the viewer is in but shot at a different time so that they find themselves in a confused jumble of overlapping realities. These pieces rely on the discrepancies between what is seen on the video monitor or playback from the camera and what is actually occurring in real time.

Karlheinz Stockhausen     (Gesang Der Junglinge)

Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928 – 2007) was a German composer, widely acknowledged by critics as one of the most important but also controversial composers of the 20th and early 21st centuries.  He is known for his groundbreaking work in electronic music, aleatory)controlled chance) in a serial composition and musical spatializaton, usually translated as “space music”.

Stockhausen’s compositions and theories were and remain widely influential, not as composers of art music, but also on Jazz and Popular music.  His works were composed over a period of nearly 60 years and had received numerous prizes and distinctions for his compositions, recordings, and for the scores produced by his publishing company.  Some of his notable compositions include the series of nineteen “Klavierstucke” (piano pieces), Kontra-Punkte, Gesang Der Junglinge, Kontakte, and the gigantic opera cycle “Licht”.

Henryk Gorecki  (Symphony No. 3 – Symphony of Sorrowful Songs)

Henryk Gorecki (1933 – 2010) was a Polish composer of contemporary classical music and became a leading figure of the Polish Avant-garde during the post-Stalin cultural thaw.  His works of the 1950′ and 1960’s were characterized by adherence to dissonant modernism and drew influence from the likes of Luigi Nono and Karlheinz Stockhausen to name but a few.  He continued in this direction throughout the 1960’s, but by the mid 1970’s had changed to a less complex sacred minimalist sound, exemplified by the transitional Symphony No.2 and the hugely popular Symphony No.3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs).

Gorecki’s name remained largely unknown outside of Poland until the late – mid 1980’s, however, in 1992, 15 years after it was composed; a recording of his Third Symphony was released to commemorate the memory of those lost during the Holocaust and became a worldwide commercial and critical success, selling more than a million copies and vastly exceeding the typical lifetime sales of a recording of symphonic music by a 20th century composer.

Sergei Prokofiev   (Dance of the Knights from Romeo & Juliet)   (Peter and the Wolf march)     (The Love for Three Oranges , part 1)

Sergei Prokofiev (1891 – 1953) was a Russian composer, pianist and conductor who mastered numerous musical genres and is regarded as one of the major composers of the 20th century.  His best known works include the ballet, Romeo and Juliet, from which “Dance of the Knights” is taken and Peter and the Wolf.  Besides many other works, Prokofiev also composed five piano concertos, nine completed piano sonatas and seven symphonies.

Prokofiev initially made his name as an iconoclastic composer-pianist, achieving notoriety with a series of works for his instrument and his first two piano concertos.  His greatest interest however, was opera, and he composed several works in that genre.  His one relative success during his lifetime for opera was “The Love for Three Oranges”, composed for Chicago and subsequently performed over the following decade in Europe and Russia.

After the Revolution, Prokofiev left Russia and lived in the United States, then later Germany and Paris, before returning in 1936.  The Nazi invasion of the USSR spurred him to compose his most ambitious work which was an operatic version of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

Yoko ono

Yoko Ono is an artist, and a musician praised as being the fore-front of a Avant Garde-pop mix. More famously known as being John Lennon’s wife, who had collaborated together for a few singles.

Although having already preformed some musical pieces beforehand, her music career really seemed to take off after Lennon’s death. Having started firstly off with the unfinished pieces between her and Lennon, then moving onto her own singles without his mention. She’s collaborated with other artists, such as Pet shop boys, Eric Clapton, Klaus Voormann and Cornelius. She has made fourteen albums, featured on seven of John Lennon’s albums, released six Compilation/Soundtrack albums and two tribute albums.

John Cage

John Milton Cage Jr. was an American composer, music theorist, writer, and artist.  Born September 5th, 1912 in Los Angeles, he was the pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music and non-standard use of musical instruments.  He was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant -garde with critics lauding him as one of the most influential American composers of the 20th century.  Cage was also instrumental in the development of modern dance, mostly through his association with Merce Cunningham, who was his romantic partner for most of his life.

Cage is perhaps best known for his 1952 composition 4’33” which is performed with the absence of any sound; musicians who present the work do nothing aside from merely being present for the titles duration.  The content of this composition is not just “four minutes and 33 seconds” of silence as is sometimes assumed, but rather the sounds of the environment heard by the audience during the performance.  the works challenge was about musicianship and musical experience which made it a rather popular and somewhat controversial topic both in musicology and the much broader aesthetics of art and performance.

John Cage was also a pioneer of the ‘prepared piano’ which is the concept of altering the instruments timbre or tone quality by placing objects, preparations) such as knives or spoons between or on the strings, hammers or dampers.  He wrote numerous dance-related works and a few concert pieces using this method.  Probably the best known of these is ‘Sonatas and Interludes'(1946-48).  This is a collection of twenty pieces for ‘prepared piano’ and is influenced by Cage’s introduction to Indian philosophy and the teachings of art historian Ananda K. Coomaraswanny. The cycle consists of sixteen sonatas(thirteen of which are cast in binary form, two related sections), the remaining three in ternary form and four more freely structured interludes.  The aim of the pieces was to express the eight permanent emotions of the Rasa Indian tradition.  Significantly more complex than his other works for prepared piano, Sonatas and Interludes is generally recognised as one of Cage’s finest achievements.

Yngwie Malmsteen

Yngwie Malmsteen, born Lars Johan Yngve Lannerback on the 30th June 1963 is a Swedish Guitarist, Songwriter, Multi-instrumentalist and Bandleader.  Malmsteen became known for his neo-classical style of music being heavy metal that is heavily influenced by classical music. He is arguably the most technically accomplished hard rock guitarist to emerge during the 1980’s.

J S Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 –  1750) was a German Composer, Organist, Harpsichordist and Violinist of the Baroque Period.  He enriched many established German styles through his skill in counterpoint, meaning the relationship between voices that are harmonically interdependent (polyphony), but independent in rhythm and contour.  Many of Bach’s works are still known today, such as the Brandenburg Concertos.  His music is revered for its intellectual depth, technical command and artistic beauty.

Bach’s abilities as an organist were highly respected throughout Europe during his life time, although he was not widely recognised as a great composer until a revival of interest and performances of his music in the first half of the 19th century.  He is now generally regarded as one of the main composers of the Baroque Period, and as one of the greatest composers of all time.

Eric Satie    ( Erik Satie – Gymnopedie no.2)

Eric Alfred Leslie Satie, signed his name Erik Satie after 1884 was born in Honfleur, France on May 17th 1866.  Satie was a composer and Pianist and a colourful figure in the early 20th century Parisian Avant- garde.  His work was a precursor to later artistic movements such as minimalism, repetitive music, and the Theatre of the Absurd, which was a designation for particular plays of absurd fiction written by a number of primarily European Playwrights in the late 1950’s.

An eccentric, Satie was introduced as a Gymnopedist in 1887, shortly before writing his most famous compositions, the Gymnopedies.  Later he also referred to himself as a “phonometrician”, meaning someone who measures sound. Preferring this designation to that of a musician after being called “a clumsy but subtle technician” in a book on contemporary French composers published in 1911.

In addition to his body of music, Satie also left a remarkable set of writings, having contributed work for a range of publications, from Dadaist391 to the American culture chronicle Vanity Fair.  After years of heavy drinking, Erik Satie died on 1 July 1925 from Cirrhosis of the liver.  After his death, Satie’s friends discovered compositions that were totally unknown or thought lost as well as other unpublished or unfinished works.

Claude Debussy        Claude Debussy- Reverie)

Claude Debussy (22 August 1862 – 25 March 1918) was a French composer.  He was one of the most prominent figures associated with Impressionist music, though he himself intensely disliked the term when applied to his work.  Impressionism in music was a movement in European Classical music, mainly in France, it focused on a suggestion and atmosphere rather than a strong emotion or the depiction of a story as in program music and occurred as a reaction to the excesses of the Romantic era that began in the early 18th or 19th century.

Debussy’s music is noted for its sensory component and for not often forming around one key or pitch.  Often Debussy’s work reflected the activities or turbulence of his own life.  In French literary circles, the style of this period was known as “symbolism”, a movement that directly inspired Debussy both as a composer and as an active cultural participant.

Claude Debussy was a crucial figure in the transition to the modern era in Western music.  He was made Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1903 and remains one of the most famous and influential of all composers.

Harold Budd (The Plateaux of Mirror) (The Pearl)

Harold Budd, an American Avant-Garde composer and poet, he was born in Los Angeles and raised in the Mojave Desert and developed a style of playing piano he termed ” soft pedal”.  His career as a composer began in 1962. In the following years, he gained a notable reputation in the local avant-garde community.  In 1966 he graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in musical composition.  As he progressed, his compositions became increasingly minimal. Among his more experimental works were two “drone” pieces, a minimalist musical style that emphasizes the use of sustained or repeated sounds, notes or tone clusters.

Budd retires temporarily from composing in 1970 and began a teaching career at the California Institute of the Arts.  In 1972, whilst still retaining his teaching career, he resurfaced as a composer.  From 1972-75, he created four individual pieces of work under the collective title “The Pavilion of Dreams”, an unusual blend of Jazz and avant -garde.  In 1976, Budd resigned from the Institute and began recording new compositions which were produced by British ambient pioneer, Brian Eno.  His two collaborations with Eno, The Plateaux of Mirror and The Pearl,established his trademark atmospheric piano style termed “soft pedal” which can be described as slow and sustained.  Harold Budd is still composing and recording to this day.

Ennio Morricone      (A Fistful of Dollars)        (The Good, The Bad and The Ugly)     (Once Upon A Time in The West)

Ennio Morriconne, born in Rome on the 10th November 1928 is an Italian composer and conductor who has written music for more than 5oo motion pictures and television series. His career spans over 50 years and has received many awards which include the Polar Music Prize, Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score, BAFTA Award for Best Film Music as well as a European Film Academy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Morricone’s career as a film music composer started in 1961 with the film “IL Federale” directed by Luciano Salce, but he became famous worldwide with Sergio Leone’s Westerns; A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966), Once Upon a Time in the West(1968) and A Fistful of Dynamite (1971).  In 1984, he and other composers founded the I.R.T.E.M, (Institute of Research for Musical Theatre) in Rome.  The soundtrack from the film The Good, The Bad and The Ugly has been included in the list of inductees for the Grammy Hall of Fame. His work has been an influence to many recording artists over the decades and is still being sampled by Rap artists and film directors to this day.

Dalziel & Scullion

Dalziel & Scullion are Scottish based artists who have worked in collaboration since 1993.  Their studio creates artworks in photography, video, sound and sculpture that explore new artistic languages surrounding the subject of ecology.  They regularly work with musicians, naturalists, philosophers and scientist to make artwork that visualize aspects of our shared environment from alternative perspectives and to re-establish and re-evaluate our engagement with non-human species we live along side.

Steve Reich

Steve Reich is an American composer who is one of the pioneering composers of minimal music.  His innovations include using tape loops to create phasing patterns, repetitive figures, slow harmonic rhythm and canons that have significantly influenced contemporary music, especially in the US.   His style of composition has influenced many other composers and musical groups.  Reich has been described as one of a handful of living composers who can legitimately claim to have altered the direction of musical history.

Walter Murch

Walter Murch is an American film editor and sound designer.  He started editing and mixing sound with Francis Ford Coppola’s The Rain People(1969).  Subsequently he worked on The Godfather and The Conversation for which he received an Academy Award Nomination in sound in 1974.  He is most famous for his sound designing work on Apocalypse Now, which won him his first Academy Award in 1979.

Murch is widely acknowledged as the person who coined the term ‘sound designer’, and along with colleagues developed the current standard film sound format, the 5.1 channel array, helping to elevate the art and impact of film sound to a new level

Keith Rowe

Keith Rowe is a free improvisation tabletop guitarist and painter.  Having trained as a visual artist, Rowe’s paintings have been featured on most of his own album covers.  After years of obscurity, Rowe has achieved a level of relative notoriety, and since the late 1990’s has kept a busy recording and touring schedule.  He began his career playing Jazz in the early 1960’s, however he soon grew tired of this and began experimenting, slowly and gradually expanding into free jazz and free improvisation, eventually abandoning conventional guitar technique.  Rowe is seen as the godfather of electroacoustic improvisation and prepared guitar.

Greg Pope

After dabbling in punk rock bands and absurdist performance, Greg Pope founded Brighton-based Super 8 film collective Situation Cinema in 1986 and afterwards Loophole cinema (London, 1989). Using 16mm, Super 8 and video, Loophole Cinema were self-styled shadow engineers performing numerous events around Europe. They produced The International Symposium of Shadows in London in 1996. Working collaboratively and individually, Pope has made video installations, live art pieces and single screen film works since 1996. Recent works include live cinema performance pieces Light Trap and Cipher Screen as well as 35mm film productions Shadow Trap and Shot Film.  He currently lives in Norway and is active teaching, projecting, programming and making film. Video / film and documentation

Pauline Oliveros

Pauline Oliveros is an American accordionist and composer who is a central figure in the development of post-war electronic art music.  She was a founding member of the San Francisco Tape Music Centre in the1960’s, and served as its director.  She has taught music at colleges and Universities, written books and formulated new music theories, also investigated new ways to focus attention on music including her concepts of “Deep Listening” and “Sonic Awareness.

Ken Jacobs

Ken Jacobs is an American Experimental filmmaker and was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1933.  He studied painting with one of the prime creators of abstract expressionism, Hans Hofmann in the mid-fifties.  In 1967 he created the Millennium Film Workshop in New York City.  A non-profit filmmaker’s co-operative open to all, it made available film equipment, workspace, screenings and classes at little or no cost.

Jacob’s is the director of Tom, Tom, T he Piper’s Son(1969)which was admitted to the National Film Registry in 2007.  His Star Spangled to Death(2004) is a nearly seven hour film consisting of found footage.  Jacob’s filmography includes; The Alps and The Jews(1957), Little Stabs of Happiness(1960) and Blonde Cobra(1963) to name but a few.

Paul Sharitis

Paul Jeffrey Sharits (1943-1993) was a visual artist best known for his work in “experimental” or avant garde film making, particularly what became known as the ‘Structural film movement.  Sharits work primarily focused on installations using one or all of the following: infinite film loops, multiple projectors, and experimental soundtracks.

His works of the 60’s; when he received the widest acclaim, included influential “flicker” films such as Ray Gun Virus.  His works of the 70’s were among the forerunners of contemporary installation art.  Themes of violence permeate his work.

Jean Tinguely

Jean Tinguely (1925 – 1991) was a Swiss painter and sculptor.  He is best known for his sculptural machines or ‘Kinetic art’ in the Dada tradition; known officially as ‘meta mechanics’  Tinguely’s art looked largely at the mindless overproduction of material goods in advanced industrial society.

His best known works include; a self-destroying sculptor titled, Homage to New York (1960) and Study for an End of the World No.2 (1962).


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